Why Cynthia Rhodes Retired from the Spotlight

At the height of her career, Cynthia Rhodes, known for her roles in classic dance dramas from the 1980s, gracefully stepped away from the spotlight. Now at 67 years old, she reflects on her decision and her journey as both a dancer and a mother.

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Rhodes began her career in the musical fantasy movie “Xanadu” in 1980 alongside the late Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. Her breakthrough came in 1983 when she played dancer Tina Tech in “Flashdance” and later took on the role of John Travolta’s love interest in Sylvester Stallone’s “Staying Alive.”

However, it was in the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing” where Rhodes truly made her mark. As Penny Johnson, a dance teacher at a resort hotel, she captivated audiences with her graceful and flashy Mambo-style moves, dancing alongside the late Patrick Swayze in emotional and dramatic scenes.

Rhodes’s portrayal of Penny shed light on important societal issues, particularly the topic of reproductive rights. The character’s illegal abortion gone wrong showcased the challenges faced by women during that time, charming and shocking viewers simultaneously.

Reflecting on her time as Penny, Rhodes shared, “She’s from South Philadelphia and has had a hard life… She’s sweet, but she’s held back because she’s been through a lot and has built up a wall. And I think she finally understands that life does go on.”

However, life took a different turn for Rhodes after “Dirty Dancing.” The physical toll of dancing, combined with the demands of motherhood, led her to step away from the art form she loved. Rhodes trained extensively for the role of Penny, practicing ten hours a day, which took a toll on her body. She experienced constant back and bone pain, making it difficult to continue dancing.

Despite her physical challenges, Rhodes still found herself being offered film roles. Grateful for the opportunities, she expressed her desire to explore serious roles that didn’t involve dancing. Rhodes yearned for a chance to showcase her acting abilities without the physical strain.

While her decision to retire from dancing may have surprised fans, Rhodes found happiness and fulfillment in being a mother. She married Grammy Award-winning musician Richard Marx in 1989 and focused on raising their three children, Brandon, Lucas, and Jesse. Marx reflects on Rhodes’s decision, stating, “No matter how much you love her as a dancer, singer, or actress, you should see her as a mom.”

For Rhodes, the respite from dancing provided relief for her body, allowing her to embrace a new chapter in her life. She hasn’t looked back since her last film role in 1991’s “Curse of the Crystal Eye.” Her focus shifted to her family, while her children went on to make their own mark in the entertainment industry.

Brandon, Rhodes’s eldest son, pursued a career in music, while Lucas found success as both a singer and actor, appearing in various TV shows. Jesse, the youngest, is following his passion for music and has joined a metal band.

Rhodes’s decision to retire from the spotlight was a significant turning point in her life, allowing her to prioritize her well-being and embrace the joys of motherhood. While her time as a dancer may have come to an end, her legacy as a talented performer lives on, and her journey serves as an inspiration to many.


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